Category:

Health & Fitness

I recently discovered the Vybz App on the Sisters Connected page on Facebook. It’s an amazing app for women and girls in Zimbabwe even though the content can be consumed by anyone in the world.

Is something strange going on with your private parts? Are you too shy to speak to someone else about it? And you are cash-strapped to go and see a doctor? That’s where the Vybz App comes in. The app allows you to access a wide range of Sexual and Reproductive Health services and resources for free on your mobile phone.

You can chat to an expert over WhatsApp.

When I texted them, I was responded to in under an hour which was pleasantly surprising. I asked my question and received an insightful response. The expert was accommodating and professional during our chat. I had many interlinking questions and all of them were answered to my satisfaction.

One of the other cooler features of the app was that it has a Spin the Wheel game. This game has two categories to choose from between HIV or Sexual Reproduction Health related trivia questions. It added to the cool vibes of the app. Now when people ask me if I have games on my phone I can say yes.

The Self Risk Assessment quiz allows you to answer a series of questions in order to gauge your exposure to contracting HIV. I think the questions could be improved upon but this is a great start. Once you get your risk results, there’s information about how you may retain control over your sexual health to avoid falling sick.

What else did I like about the Vybz App?

  • It is user-friendly
  • Most of the resources are available offline
  • There’s a Vybz Man section for the other gender
  • There’s a directory of SRHR service providers with addresses
  • There’s a resourceful Menstruation Handbook with period pain management tips
  • There’s a period tracker within the app
  • You can book an appointment directly from the app
  • The app has no ads or paid features

You may download the Vybz App from the Google Playstore by clicking here.

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During my time overseas, I met a Liberian girl who wore waist beads. Nothing fancy, just one bright strand of glass beads around her small waist. She explained to me how she uses the waist beads to keep track of her weight. I thought, “those must be some magic beads.” If they get me a small waist then sign me up immediately.

Fast forward to two years later, I now wear 5 strands of waist beads.

Why waist beads?

I’d love to say that they are spiritual but that would be a lie. I really wish they were. There are some people who are spiritually gifted who have to wear waist beads as instructed by their spirit guides. Some are given the waist beads when they are born. This is most prevalent in African cultures who believe the waist beads will bring blessings, protection, divine health, depending on what colour the beads are. Yes, the colour of the beads is critical.

What’s the big deal surrounding waist beads?

I came across a post that cautioned men not to mess around with women who wear waist beads. All the author said is, men should run when they meet women with waist beads, he didn’t bother explaining why. I’m very curious to find out how he came to that conclusion.

Are all waist beads wearers bad?

Like literally anything and everything on this planet, there are some people who have perverted waist beads and thus resultantly, created a stereotype surrounding waist beads. I was doing my wedding rounds with my best friend and my waist beads kept peeking at the top of my jeans. When we were in the car she said to me, “Maybe it’s best you leave them at home when you are wearing jeans. Not too many people will understand that they are just for aesthetics.” This is the last thing I wanted considering I was about to join a new family whose beliefs I wasn’t sure of.

Aren’t waist beads sexual?

In my research, I came across an article which implies that women will cast spells on their waist beads almost like a love potion to enchant men. I can’t disprove this claim because I don’t know the first thing about mystic things.

Some women will earn waist beads during sex education trainings such as Chinamwali. This is an African culture ritual for women to learn about their sexuality. It’s much more than just about sex. This practice is frowned upon due to the rigorous nature and possible sexual abuse of girls as young as 12 years old. In this new age, young women can signup for the watered-down version of these Chinamwali sessions which may or may not include, back-breaking.

What do my waist beads mean to me?

I was influenced by Beyoncé to get some of them. She mentions them in her song, ‘Black Parade.’ She is also adorning them in her promo videos for Ivy Park Drip. In this one video, she has her back towards the camera, twerks, and the waist beads pop out and back under. It’s a game of peek-a-boo. There’s a sensuality that comes with wearing waist beads. It’s the same feeling you get when you are wearing cute lingerie or a pretty dress. I find myself moving my waist a lot just to hear them jingle. Hopefully, this leads to a smaller waist.

As women, we need to be allowed to wear whatever we want, society be damned. Prudes will be infuriated by waist beads because of the sexual liberation the waist beads allude to. If you wear waist beads you are seen as a Jezebel temptress or Siren luring men to their deaths. A gender which is always sexually assaulting women, even spiritually with Mubobobo, is afraid of glass beads. Make it make sense.

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In early 2014 I was lucky to be part of a group of female journalists from all over Africa invited to witness and experience the work done at New Start Centers across Zimbabwe on cervical cancer screening. Cervical cancer has been named one of the most common killers among women today and yet it is also one of the most curable if detected early.

Zimbabwe embarked on a series of screening campaigns which unfortunately has been overwhelming for health practitioners who have to work with limited resources and citizens who have to be on a waiting list for weeks and at times months to be called for a screening procedure.

So for me it was delighting to be able to bypass the waiting list and be able to undergo this life saving procedure so as to encourage other ladies to get it done as well. First I went for an HIV test after which I went into a small room with a large TV monitor and a few computers and complicated looking machines. A lady in white who was behind the computer asked me to remove my trousers and to lie facing upwards on the bed with my legs apart.

I had heard all sorts of rumours about how your uterus is sucked out of you and put on a table and then examined. I was expecting an unpleasant feeling while lying there with my legs apart. I could even hear the lady grab some metal sounding tools from a bucket with a clear liquid in it. As I tilted my head slightly to the side to see what it was I spotted a curved medium sized metal object, half the palm of my hand in width and about 15-20 centimeters long. I was still wondering where she planned to put that thing when I felt a cold movement in my vagina and like something making its way in. It felt like I was being opened up and some air was rushing into my privates. Later the monitor was alive with pictures of the inner lining of my uterus in full view on the screen. It was dark pinkish in colourand shiny. The lady asked me to compare what I was seeing on the monitor to what was on pictures around the examination room to get my result. I told her it looked like there were no signs of cancer cells and she agreed. I asked her why then the skin looked so dark almost red and she said it is because I had had a baby before and was on contraceptives and that is how the womb would react to such experiences.

For the next couple of hours, I kept trying to squeeze my legs together because it still felt like the metal object was still up there somewhere. I was however glad that at least for the next 12 months had been given the nod of good health.

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Going through that time of the month is a turbulent and definitely a trying time without having to worry about additional stress. The plight of the Zimbabwean girl isn’t only about affordable sanitary wear but also accessible reproductive health services and the basic human right of water. The worst thing that can happen to a girl is for her to wake up on her period and find out that there is no water.

During the menstrual cycle, anything can go wrong. Leakages happen all the time. I am nearly 30 years old and I still hesitate to stand up when I am on my period just in case I had a leakage and my dress or chair is now stained. When the worst happens, you’ll need water nearby to clean yourself up and the affected items.

Since the biblical times, the menstruation cycle has been considered dirty physically and spiritually. If I go on my period and it’s on a weekend or I am at home, I’d ideally like to take at least three showers in the day. I get heat flashes when I am on my cycle so I get sweaty and need to keep refreshing. I can’t do that if there’s no water which increases my discomfort during my period.

Most girls suffer from what is called dysmenorrhea. Which is the scientific name for severe period pain. Most of the remedies for period pain include water. Either placing a hot water bottle on your tummy/back or drinking warm water or simply taking pills. All this means that the girl needs to have a constant water supply.

If its yellow, let it mellow but if its brown, flush it down.

We’ve all heard this right? Well, when you are on your period you have to flush every single time. Nobody needs to see that mess. Imagine having to go outside to go and find a bucket of water for flushing and having to carry it across the house meanwhile your back is burning from severe period pain. Doesn’t sound fun does it? It is so much discomfort because you can’t go and visit other people because going to the loo in a strange place is a chore.

Water is a basic human right and women need access to clean sources of water especially during their monthly cycle. Clean water is essential to ensuring that women’s reproductive health is preserved. I hope one day our leaders or any decision makers in this space do their best to improve the situation of lack of water.

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My worst fear has always been stumbling upon a terminal illness and doctors saying to me, “If we had caught it earlier maybe we could have done something about it but it’s too late now.”

This hypochondria is the reason why I always go for my health check-ups as scheduled. I go for an HIV test as often as I can and now that they test for HIV by swabbing the saliva in your mouth, its less scarier than the thumb prick blood method. So I went to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) for a free VIAC which is a cervical cancer screening. I had tried to go to NewStart but they were booked for the next three months. I didn’t have that long to wait. I needed to know what’s what.

I woke up early to go to UBH. They serve you on a first come, first served basis. I needed to be first. I sat in the waiting room. I was third. By the time 08:00 hours came around, the queue was absurd. My turn came and I walked towards the screening room. My nerves were killing me. I had never done this before. I knew what they were going to check so I made sure that I was shaved in preparation.

A young woman was going to do the test. She asked me about my reproductive health. She asked very personal questions but I guess they have cause to probe that deep. After she was done taking notes, she instructed me to remove my underwear and mount myself on the fancy chair. They make you put your feet up and your legs are wide open. This isn’t the time to be shy. Keep your eye on the prize, remember why you came.

She explained the procedure and what exactly she is going to do. She scooped the cotton wool and dipped it in what smelt like vinegar. She then placed it where she supposed to and said we must wait. After a couple of minutes she took a picture and showed it to me. She explained that if the result had been positive a white froth would have appeared.

I was then told to go and get a free HIV test in the next building. This took a much longer time. It wasn’t complicated, it was a standard HIV test using the prick thumb method. I got my results and took them back to the first building. She explained to me that they run the HIV test to determine when next I should come for my next VIAC. If my HIV test had come out positive, I’d have had to come for a VIAC annually. This is because the HIV increases my risk to cervical cancer and other opportunistic diseases.

You need to overcome the fear of the unknown and get this cervical cancer check done. It is a free and simple procedure. It’s minimally intrusive. It is much less intrusive than a pap smear. Get a group of friends together and make it a tradition. The nerves are calmer and time goes by real fast if you are with people that you trust.

Read More: http://betterhealthcareforafrica.org/blog/viac-and-how-it-works/

When will you go for a cervical cancer screening?

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